Connor Bedard dominates with highlight-reel hat trick as Blackhawks prospects rout Blues

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Connor Bedard has spent the past four months being paraded around North America as a new face of the NHL, answering the same questions over and over about his mentality and expectations, meeting hundreds of movers and shakers throughout the hockey world and coordinating the logistics of his new Blackhawks contract and his move to Chicago.

He’s been doing everything but playing hockey, the one thing he truly loves doing. Thus, by the time Hawks prospect camp arrived this week, the 18-year-old phenom found himself starving for a competitive game.

“Of course there’s been a lot of photos and interviews, which is great. But I want to play hockey,” Bedard said Thursday. “I want to play a game so bad. It’s been so long. So I’m really excited for that.”

As Rockford coach Anders Sorensen astutely observed, “It seems like he just wants to be on the ice.”

Finally, come Saturday night at the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase in Minnesota, Bedard got his wish, centering the Hawks’ top line in a dominant 5-0 win over the Blues.

And he made the most of it, scoring his first three unofficial goals in a red-and-white uniform — all in highlight-reel, man-against-boys fashion, despite being actually the youngest player in the tournament. One game, one hat trick, and the precedent has been set.

“Obviously it was a lot of our first games in a while, so you’ve got to get used to that a little bit, but you’ve got so much energy, so much adrenaline going,” Bedard said. “Getting here, [the] music is playing and you just have that mojo going in. That was the best part: getting back into it.”

Seconds into a second-period power play, Bedard slipped into open space at the right point, received a pass from fellow top prospect Kevin Korchinski, pushed down to the faceoff dot and released a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot through Blues defenseman Leo Loof and past Blues goalie Will Cranley.

The goal won’t make it on any stat sheets or historical records, and Cranley won’t become a future hockey trivia answer, but in that moment, the magnitude of stardom Bedard could attain with the Hawks came into full focus — and felt fully real — for the first time.

On another power play in the third period, Bedard arguably one-upped himself, maneuvering around several Blues penalty-killers with the puck seemingly glued to his stick before ripping a shot — from a nearly impossible angle along the goal line — into the far-side corner.

He completed his hat trick on a two-on-three rush with fellow 2023 draft pick Nick Lardis a few minutes later, catching Cranley standing by nonchalantly zinging the puck an inch above the ice, off the post and in.

His entire performance actually could be described as nonchalant, which made it even more impressive. Asked what he saw that prompted him to shoot for his second goal, he dryly joked, “I saw where it went.” And asked about his overall play, he remained as humble as he has been all summer.

“[I was] getting looks, and it was nice to see them go in,” Bedard said. “But all those were set up. There were good screens and good plays made by other guys. It’s not all on me.”

Sorensen mixed and matched most line combinations but generally kept Bedard and Colton Dach together, with Lardis and Martin Misiak each spending time as the other winger.

Sorensen hoped Dach would be able to use his physicality to win board battles — since that aspect of his game has developed significantly — and create space for Bedard, and that thinking proved correct. On their first shift of the game, Dach forced an offensive-zone turnover and set up Bedard for a good chance — the first of his 11 shots on goal.

“He looked dangerous every time he was on the ice,” Sorensen said.

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